I’ve recently filed for a divorce and my husband keeps telling me that he will make sure I walk away with nothing. He is a very controlling man who doesn’t want a divorce and his threats frighten me. We have two children and have lived in our home for nearly 10 years. He owned the home before we married; my name is not on the mortgage and because of that he says I have no ownership rights to the home. I worry that my children and I will end up penniless with nowhere to live once the divorce is final. Are my fears irrational?
If I had a nickel for every woman that came into my office terrified because their husband told them, “you’ll get nothing if you leave me”, I could afford to retire to Bali. And if I had a nickel for every woman that actually ended up with nothing, I would be penniless myself. Let’s just start with this – he’s wrong. You will not end up penniless. You will be better than fine. The fact that you were married for over ten years to a man that would say something like that to you tells me that getting a divorce is about to make your life a whole lot more awesome.
Okay, so now that you are breathing again, let’s talk about your financial future. You may or may not have an interest in the house, depending on the specific facts of your case and the laws of your state. The fact that he purchased the home before marriage or that your name is not on the mortgage does not automatically mean you don’t have an interest. The first step you need to take is to get organized – get your hands on as much financial information as you can: the mortgage statements, property deeds and your bank statements. Take it to a lawyer in your area and get educated.
Finally, remember that the house is not the only thing between you and poverty. You are most likely going to get child support, spousal support (also known as alimony), and a share in other assets (e.g. retirement funds, cars, savings accounts, etc.). Keep in mind that people say horrible things when they are desperate, frustrated and angry. Stop listening to his rants, take action to educate yourself and find a lawyer you trust to help you navigate the next few months. You can do this.